UC student earns foreign affairs fellowship

Scholarship will help IT student pursue master’s degree

A first-year graduate student in the University of Cincinnati’s School of Information Technology is one of just 15 students selected nationwide by the U.S. Department of State for the Foreign Affairs Information Technology Fellowship.

Adetokunbo “Tomi” Okunoye, who will begin his studies at UC during the fall 2022 semester, will receive up to $75,000 in academic funding for a two-year IT-related master’s degree program, two summer internships, professional development and mentorship as part of the fellowship. After he completes the fellowship and entry requirements, he’ll receive an appointment in the foreign service as an information management specialist.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Okunoye said of earning the fellowship. “It was pretty mind-blowing to think of how lucky I was.”

Adetokunbo “Tomi” Okunoye

Adetokunbo “Tomi” Okunoye | Photo/provided

Okunoye earned a bachelor’s degree in life sciences for business in 2017 and a Master of Business Administration degree in business intelligence in 2019. After earning his degrees, he worked as a laboratory technician and a manager in a warehouse.

He wanted to earn another degree and was drawn to information technology, a field that matched his interests and offered great potential for his career.

“I was debating on going back [to school] for a while and having issues,” Okunoye said. “I didn’t know if I’d be able to leave my job and make sure I could focus on school and be the best that I could be, but this [fellowship] truly changed everything for me.”

While he had doubts about whether he could afford to return to school, there was no doubt where Okunoye would continue his education if he was given the opportunity.

“UC was always my choice, regardless of the fellowship,” he said. “Luckily the fellowship came along, too, and it was just like a wonderful matching of both.”

Having several friends who attended UC, Okunoye has long been impressed by the university. He likes the lively feel of the campus, the well-respected and high-achieving people and the good career outcomes UC offers.

UC was always my choice, regardless of the fellowship. Luckily the fellowship came along, too, and it was just like a wonderful matching of both.

Adetokunbo “Tomi” Okunoye UC graduate student

To earn the fellowship, Okunoye had to complete a rigorous application process that included an online application, an essay, resume, letters of recommendation and then completing a series of interviews.

“We’re honored to partner with the U.S. Department of State on this important fellowship program since its inception with the 2017 cohort,” said Kim Churches, president of The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. “The [foreign affairs] fellowship program received applications from highly qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds across the United States, and we’re very proud of the 15 selected fellows for their achievement.”

As a member of the fellowship, Okunoye is excited about all the opportunities that await him including improving his skills in information technology, building connections, traveling and serving the United States.

“I want to have the impact they said I can,” he said. “This is a job where you truly can help people and make a difference. That’s something I’m very excited to do.”

As a foreign service information management specialist, Okunoye will be assigned to work on behalf of the United States in a foreign nation, using his technology skills to support U.S. diplomacy abroad.

The [foreign affairs] fellowship program received applications from highly qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds across the United States, and we’re very proud of the 15 selected fellows for their achievement.

Kim Churches President of The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars

When he was younger, the first-generation Nigerian American was able to travel in Gambia, Nigeria, Finland, the United Kingdom and the United States. He hasn’t traveled internationally the past several years, though, and is looking forward to the opportunity during his upcoming internship and future career.

“I remember a lot of growing up, moving around, just experiencing a lot of different cultures, meeting people from different places constantly,” he said. “It was something that was really novel and honestly exciting to see.

“Being able to work a foreign service job in a whole new country, a whole bunch of people speaking a different language, that’s definitely going to be an interesting experience.”

Okunoye is excited to continue his education at UC and about the wide range of opportunities available in information technology.

“I’m really looking forward to getting my IT skills up, the opportunity to cover so many areas that I can know a little about almost everything because there’s going to be a good diversity in the job role and what we’re going to be doing,” he said.

This is the second consecutive year a UC student earned a Foreign Affairs Information Technology Fellowship, following Mahesh Gowda in 2021.

With more than 1,500 students, UC’s School of Information Technology is home to the largest computing program on campus and Ohio’s first bachelor’s and master’s degrees and doctoral programs in information technology. UC’s online master's in information technology, the first of its kind in Ohio, was ranked ninth in the nation in the 2022 U.S. News & World Report.

The 2023 application cycle for the Foreign Affairs Information Technology Fellowship program is expected to begin in September 2022. Announcements will be posted online at www.faitfellowship.org and shared on social media on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Featured image at top courtesy of Unsplash.

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